Open letter to regional Connecticut town leaders, local politicians, traffic engineers, Department of Transportation and urban planners:
For years the public has asked for safe streets, bike lanes, shared roads, law enforcement, smart roadway design, severe penalties for non-compliance, etc. The local plans of conservation and development — written every few years by local decision-makers — rarely result in safety, beauty, preservation or planning for a modern, civil society. The public enthusiastically gathered a few years ago to present ideas to local towns for a streetscape to keep it local, historic beautiful, comfortable and safe, for people and useful as a community.
But … last month a boy was hit while in a crosswalk, on his bike, on a local street; his screams, the crunch of metal; a frightened public with phones quickly brought emergency caregivers to the scene. Those who saw and heard this totally avoidable accident will never forget the sounds. Signage, rumble strips, speed bumps and electronic ticketing (in 33 days, Providence issued 12,193 electronic tickets costing violators $1.5 million) would have made that boy’s journey safe.
Towns are dealing with an emboldened population, with risk-takers, bar crowds, scofflaws, impatient tourists and people who care nothing for the common good with short-term thinking, with 53 footers on village roads. A lot of stuff.
Why do Mystic, Stonington, Groton, Noank and Old Mystic not demand and enforce safety for pedestrians and bikes, making them a priority? It should be kids before cars, parks before parking lots, trees before asphalt, and include narrower lanes for sharing, islands of refuge at wide crosswalks, and livable villages, not thoroughfares. The pretty village designation, for instance Old Mystic, is not valid if a kid is hit by a speeding car in a crosswalk and if the village cannot function for business and pleasure.
Good plans abound, here and abroad. The TJ Maxx plaza in New London is doing an adequate job of keeping the public safe. Good ideas must be priorities. Internationally recognized urban planners must be heard. Methods in Amsterdam and Copenhagen and in the United States in Bristol, R.I., for example, exhibit the contemporary planning needed.
Nancy d’EstangOld Mystic